The flagship of the classy Pardo range dreams of sun-drenched bays and warm evenings but is the Pardo 50 anything more than a big day boat?
The Italian port of Portopiccolo, close to Italy’s border with Slovenia, is a fascinating place. The name – literally, “small port” – is highly accurate given how the compact basin has been manipulated to contain a smattering of berths.
This former quarry is unrecognisable from its old self, now a pristine horseshoe of luxury residences and high-end shops and restaurants all linked by hidden tunnels and winding staircases. If you own one of the spectacular apartments clinging on to the craggy cliff face then why would you worry about buying a boat that you could sleep on overnight?
Enter the Pardo 50. This is the flagship of a range of T-top walkarounds from the same Forlí-based shipyard that builds Grand Soleil sailing yachts. The current Pardo range includes a 38-footer and a mid-range 43.
The 50 is the ultimate expression of what Pardo stands for, with a main deck that, purely from gazing over it, transports you to a sun-drenched anchorage and coaxes visions of lazing about in the sun and diving off its enormous bathing platform into clear blue water.
Sadly, the weather on the day of our test paints quite the contrast to that vision, the threat of rain hanging heavy in the air and a gusty winds whipping up white tips in the bay. It is at least an opportunity to see if this big Italian is anything more than a fair weather friend.
To add to its challenge, because this is a group press event, we exit the berth with 11 people on board, 60% load in the 2,000-litre fuel tanks and 20% fresh water on board for good measure. It’s a good job that the test boat is fitted with the largest engine option, a pair of 600hp Volvo Penta IPS800s.
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Still not huge amounts of power for a 53ft boat, but thanks to its resin-infused structure and carbon-fibre hardtop the Pardo 50’s displacement is less than 15 tonnes. The IPS800s are €128,000 more than the standard IPS600s however, while the mid-range IPS700 option splits the two and costs an additional €98,000 for the pair of 550hp engines.
I slip behind the centrally mounted wheel as we sit bobbing around in the swell in the mouth of the port. A gyroscopic stabiliser is an option (costing €43,000) but the test boat doesn’t have it fitted so I ease the throttles forward to give us some respite from the wallowing.
Even with this number of people on board the silky smooth 7.7-litre diesels make light work of getting the boat over the hump and on to the plane. In fact, there isn’t really a noticeable hump at all as the hull passes its displacement speed and surges up into a 25-knot canter.
Though they are expensive, this is where the IPS800s show their worth because performance is effortless. They only top out at a lazy 3,000rpm but by then you’ll be doing just shy of 34 knots (and inevitably more with fewer bodies on board), which means the optimum fast cruising speed of 25 knots is quiet and refined because the engines aren’t being overworked.
Though eye-catching for their value, I imagine the IPS600s would be working pretty hard in these conditions. There’s an argument that few people will travel with 11 persons on board but note that this boat is rated RCD category A for 16 people. Given its popularity as a superyacht chase boat, it’s likely that the Pardo 50 will have to get used to carrying big numbers in comfort.
What’s most remarkable about driving the 50 is that, despite the openness of its decks, you feel so secure and well protected. From their spot in the middle of the boat the helmsman is especially cocooned thanks to the tall windscreen, deep bulwarks and a T-top overhead that feels as if it could take a direct hit from a mortar and remain intact.
The helm position is flanked by supportive bucket seats, the port side one mounted the far side of a central walkway, which leads through the split wetbar galley and aligns with the companionway steps.
The steering is as light as a feather and a little docile for a hull that feels this capable but because you’re so beautifully connected to the elements you get the added pleasure of hearing and feeling the rush of water off the hull as the boat powers through the water.
For wafting along and eating up big distances the Pardo 50 is the perfect tool, aided by that 2,000-litre fuel capacity, which means that even at top speed its range is over 250 miles with 20% in reserve. The driving environment is generally pretty good but the shiny GRP dash material produces a lot of reflections and shows light scratches far too easily in direct light; a matt finish would look classier and weather better too.
There’s more to enjoy away from the helm station where the sprawling deck spaces come into their own. With everything on one level it’s such an easy boat to move around, you can drift from the hydraulic bathing platform up the built-in steps to the cockpit and then sweep down broad side decks protected by those tall bulwarks.
The vast aft module balances a huge four-person sunpad with enough dining space for eight people if the table is extended. This is a natural place for guests to congregate. They can easily transition between the warmth of the sunpads and the dinette, which benefits from an extendable sun shade that rolls out from the aft end of the T-top.
Beneath the sunpad is a tender garage large enough to hold a Williams Minijet, leaving the aft platform free of obstructions.
Luxe living quarters
As standard, the split main deck galley comes with a two-ring hob, fridge and sink but the optional barbecue grill, drawer fridges mounted in the seat bases and ice maker are all worth having. The ice maker can be substituted for a coffee machine, naturalmente. Enjoying life on deck and eating and drinking with guests is at the core of this boat’s purpose, so it makes sense to spec the galley out as highly as possible.
You’re probably waiting for this review to head below decks and proclaim that, yes, the main deck is excellent, but that’s only because the interior is so horribly compromised. Well that’s simply not the case and the notion that boats like this are best used as villa accessories is a nonsense when you see the space, quality and comfort of the Pardo 50’s interior.
There’s well over 7ft of headroom in the saloon and even as the coachroof slopes towards the bow there is 6ft 2in over the master bed. There’s an argument that with so much space to play with Pardo could have fitted a bulkhead to close the bed off from the rest of the saloon but then you would lose what makes the interior feel so spacious. This and classy, light-hued timbers and plenty of skylights to draw natural light in.
The guest cabin amidships does have a door so guests have some privacy, and with direct access to the day heads they can access their own bathroom without going back into the saloon.
A hatch in the guest cabin connects to a small third cabin, which is meant to be a skipper’s cabin. It’s a bit claustrophobic for an adult but it would work well as an overspill for guests’ children. Pardo is a flexible shipyard, though, so if you want to use this space as storage it will accommodate such requests.
There’s nowhere to sit below, so if the weather deteriorates you have to stick it out on deck – but by the usual standards of a summer evening in the Med most will want to be on deck anyway, before retiring to an air-conditioned cabin.
Price as reviewed:
£1,020,000.00 ex. VAT
As Portopiccolo’s rugged geography demonstrates, appearances can be deceptive. At first glance the Pardo 50 could be labelled as a cove queen, only used for sitting on anchor and looking pretty. On the contrary, because of the way it drives, its practical layout and an interior that makes extended cruising a real possibility it is a far more rounded proposition than initial impressions suggest.
Starting price : €799,000 (ex. VAT)
LOA: 53ft (16.2m)
Beam: 16ft (4.9m)
Draught: 4ft (1.2m)
Displacement (light) : 14.7 tonnes (32,408lbs)
Fuel capacity : 2,000 litres (440 gal)
Water capacity : 450 litres (99 gal)
Test engines : Twin 600hp Volvo Penta IPS800
Top speed on test : 34.1 knots
Cruising speed : 20 knots
Consumption at 20 knots : 123lph
Range at 20 knots : 317 miles
RCD category : A for 16 people
Design : Zuccheri / Pardo